Nepal: Finding a way forward

Nepal promulgated its new Constitution in September 2015. Rather than being a cause for universal celebration, however, the event has only led to increased polarisation within the country. The Terai region, for instance, which has been in the throes of an agitation since mid-August of 2015, has witnessed the different parties hardening their position and showing little sign of nearing compromise.

Nepal's relations with India have also been on a downward spiral. Nepal's economy, already battered by the massive earthquake in April 2015 is suffering more as supplies of essential goods from India have slowed to a trickle. India blames the insecurity caused by the Terai agitation for this disruption, even as it urges the Nepali government to find a compromise. Meanwhile, the popular perception in Nepal is that such disruption in supplies is the result of an informal Indian blockade. For the first time in the history of their bilateral relations, India and Nepal exchanged serious allegations against one another before a recent UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva. There has thus been a marked shift in Nepal-India relations, falling from the high of August 2014 when the view was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit at that time had won the hearts and minds of Nepali society and a new chapter in India-Nepal relations had begun.

The paper opens by describing some of the most significant political changes in Nepal which provided the context in the drafting of the new Constitution. It then discusses the ebbs and flows in India-Nepal relations, and the intertwining of Nepali nationalism with anti-Indianism. The paper then examines more recent developments in Nepal's internal affairs and its spiralling relations with India. The closing section identifies the reasons behind the impasse and the efforts that need to be made by all stakeholders for Nepal to get over the current crises, and for its bilateral relations with India to improve.

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Rakesh Sood